KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina – Kevin Harvick is known to perform when the stakes are raised – and he is going to have to do it again this weekend in the Hollywood Casino 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City if he hopes to advance to the Round of 8 in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
The driver of the No. 4 Outback Steakhouse Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) finds himself in a challenging position heading to Kansas. He suffered a mechanical failure last weekend in the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway that resulted in a 38th-place finish and left him 12th in the Sprint Cup standings, trailing Denny Hamlin by eight points for the final transfer position into the Round of 8.
Harvick has overcome the odds and advanced to the next round when facing adversity in the past. In fact, he has already done it once this year. After starting the Chase with a 20th-place finish at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois, he rebounded with a trip to victory lane the very next week at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon.
The Bakersfield, California native faced a must-win situation in 2015 as the Sprint Cup Series headed to Dover (Del.) International Speedway for the final race of the Round of 16 after scoring a 42nd-place finish at Chicagoland and finishing 21st at New Hampshire. He delivered the most dominating performance of his Sprint Cup career, starting 15th, leading 355 of 400 laps and crossing the finish line 2.639 seconds ahead of runner-up Kyle Busch.
Harvick faced back-to-back elimination situations en route to his 2014 Sprint Cup championship.
After scoring a 33rd-place finish to kick off the Round of 8 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway and a runner-up finish at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, he headed to Phoenix International Raceway as the eighth-place driver in need of a win to advance to the Round of 4. Again, he delivered a dominant performance, starting third, leading 264 of 312 laps and crossing the finish line 1.636 seconds ahead of the field to advance to the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway.
Harvick scored the biggest win of his Sprint Cup career the following week at Homestead, starting fifth, leading 54 laps and claiming the 2014 Sprint Cup championship by a half-second margin over runner-up Ryan Newman.
Harvick is the only driver since the inception of the elimination-style format in 2014 to avoid an early exit in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
Fortunately for Harvick, the Sprint Cup Series is headed to Kansas Speedway this weekend – a place where he has shown consistent speed the last three seasons.
Harvick won the Sprint Cup race at Kansas in October 2013, when he started from the pole position, led 138 of 267 laps and beat current SHR teammate Busch to the finish line by 1.140 seconds to score his only Sprint Cup victory at the 1.5-mile oval.
The 2014 Sprint Cup champion also owns the Sprint Cup qualifying record at Kansas, which he set May 9, 2014 with a lap of 27.799 seconds at 194.658 in second round of qualifying. That attempt won him his second of three consecutive Sprint Cup poles at Kansas from October 2013 through October 2014.
He also has three runner-up finishes in five Sprint Cup starts at Kansas since joining SHR in February 2014.
Harvick’s primary sponsor, Outback Steakhouse, continues its popular “Bloomin’ Monday” promotion, allowing fans a free Bloomin’ Onion any time Harvick records a top-10 finish in the Sprint Cup Series. And regardless of the No. 4 team’s performance Sunday, Outback Steakhouse will make race fans feel like winners with a guaranteed Bloomin’ Monday Oct. 17 for Harvick’s win over NASCAR America’s Rutledge Wood in the Bloomin’ Onion challenge.
While Outback Steakhouse will make everyone winners regardless of the race’s outcome, Harvick would love to score a win to automatically advance to the Round of 8 and continue his pursuit of the 2016 Sprint Cup championship.
KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Outback Steakhouse Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
You’ve performed much stronger at Kansas the last couple of years. Is that because of the repave, or did you find something you were missing previously?
“The repave is definitely what changed and turned things around for us at Kansas. Really, I liked the racetrack the way it was before with the asphalt really worn out and cars sliding all over. But, once the repave happened, we were able to really hit on some things and, for whatever reason, it kind of fits my driving style and we have gotten some good results out of it. It has been a really good-performing racetrack for us and one that we look forward to going to and hopefully continue to get good results out of it because it’s been so good for us in the past.”
Take us on a lap around Kansas.
“It’s definitely a little bit different just for the fact the (corner) entries are a little different than at most places. Turns three and four remind me of turns three and four at Chicagoland Speedway, but there’s a lot more grip and a lot fresher asphalt than what Chicagoland has nowadays. It’s a very high-speed racetrack. You run the middle to the bottom of the racetrack. But I’m sure, as time goes on, that the groove will move back up. But, for right now, it’s very fast and very sensitive to your line and, with all the speed and how tricky the entrance is into turn one, you can miss your line easily. So, you have to be very specific about where you put your car and pay attention to what you’re doing.”
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine